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Cytology cases of the week: an educational tool that improves trainee exposure to cytology



The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education requires residents to examine 1500 cytology specimens by the end of residency. Cytology cases of the week (COWs) were instituted in 2010-2011 in an effort to increase trainee exposure to cytology.

Materials and methods

Images of 2 to 5 cases with basic clinical information are sent to residents weekly. Residents have 1 week to respond by e-mail; after which, correct answers are e-mailed. Cytology resident in-service examination (RISE) scores were used to assess the effectiveness of COWs. Additionally, a feedback survey was distributed to trainees to determine the perception of COWs as a teaching tool.


An unpaired two-sided t test showed residents who participated in COWs scored 15.4% higher on the RISE than residents who participated minimally or not at all over the 5-year period (P < 0.05). In 2014-2015 and 2015-2016, when COWs were minimally and not at all offered, we saw a significant decrease in average cytology RISE scores compared with prior years when COWs were offered (P < 0.05). There was no correlation between percentage of correctly submitted answers for COWs and RISE scores. The vast majority (83%) of trainees reported participating in COWs for self-study, and the majority (86%) felt participation in COWs increased their cytology knowledge. Major reasons for not participating included technical challenges and time limitations.


COWs are an effective educational tool that increase resident fund of knowledge in cytology. Residents who participate in COWs perform higher on the RISE, regardless of percentage of correctly submitted answers.

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